Jonathan King, Elaine V. Lenk & David Botstein (1973) J. Mol. Biol., 80, 697-731

Mechanism of Head Assembly and DNa encapsulation in Salmonella Phage P22 II. Morphogenetic pathway


We have identified and characterized structural intermediates in phage P22 assembly. Three classes of particles can be isolated from P22-infected cells: 500 S full heads or phage, 170 S empty heads, and 240S "proheads". One or more of these classes are missing from cells infected with mutants defective in the genes for phage head assembly. By determining the protein composition of all classes of particles from wild type and mutant-infected cells, and examining the time-course of particle assembly, we have been able to define many steps in the pathway of P22 morphogenesis.

In pulse-chase experiments, the earliest structural intermediate we find is a 240 S prohead; it contains two major protein species, the products of genes 5 and 8. Gene 5 protein (p5) is the major phage coat protein. Gene 8 protein is not found in mature phage. The proheads contain, in addition, four minor protein species, P1, P16, P20 and PX. Similar prohead structures accumulate in lysates made with mutants of three genes, 1, 2, and 3, which accumulate uncut DNA. The second intermediate, which we identify indirectly, is a newly filled (with DNA) head that breaks down on isolation to 170 S empty heads. This form contains no P8, but does contain five of the six protein species of complete heads. Such structures accumulate in lysates made with mutants of two genes, 10 and 26.

Experiments with a temperature-sensitive mutant in gene 3 show that proheads from such 3- infected cells are convertible to mature phage in vivo, with concomitant loss of P8. The molecules of P8 are not cleaved during this process and the data suggest that they may be re-used to form further proheads.

Detailed examination of 8- lysates revealed aberrant aggreagates of P5. Since P8 is required for phage morphogenesis, but is removed from proheads during DNA encapsulation, we have termed it a scaffolding protein, though it may have DNA encapsulatio functions as well.

All of the experimental observations of this and the accompanying paper can be accounted for by an assembly pathway, in which the scaffolding protein P8 complexes with the major coat protein P5 to form a properly dimensioned prohead. With the function of the products of genes 1, 2 and 3, the prohead encpsulates and cuts a headful of DNA from the concatemer. Coupled with this process is the exit of the P8 molecules, which may then recycle to form further proheads. The newly filled heads are then stabilized by the action of P26 and gene 10 produc to give complete phage heads.


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